Job: Emergency medicine resident, Baystate Medical Center
Hebrew name: Chaim
Currently living in: Springfield
Alma maters: Marblehead High School ’09, Brandeis University ’13, University of Massachusetts Medical School ’18
Favorite food: Ice cream, pizza, a quality bagel
Favorite music: Whatever’s on the radio, Top 40
Favorite movies: “Lord of the Rings”
Favorite TV shows: “30 Rock,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm”
Favorite books: Harry Potter series
Favorite travel destination: Singapore, anywhere warm
Somewhere you’d like to go next: Australia
Favorite North Shore spot: Castle Rock or the Marblehead Lighthouse
Favorite Jewish holiday: Hanukkah
What is your Jewish background?
My family comes from a more conservative Jewish background. I grew up going to Cohen Hillel Academy – I think they changed their name to Epstein Hillel – and then went to high school at Marblehead High School, but also went to Prozdor, and I think that my parents tried to instill in me a strong Jewish education. Growing up we kept kosher in the house, and after high school went to Brandeis university, so I still continued my exposure to the Jewish community through college. Nowadays I feel a little bit less involved with the religious aspects, but I still have a lot of Jewish friends. We try to make it home to Marblehead for the High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah, and it’s nice going back and hanging out with the old friends I had in high school. Growing up we used to do the weekly Shabbat meals, and we used to have Havdalah services at my house. Those have fallen by the wayside for me, but definitely I would say that I still feel connected to some of the cultural components, less so the religious aspects, but I still enjoy going home.
How did you get into emergency medicine as a career?
From a young age, I knew I enjoyed science, and my favorite subject was biology. I took AP Bio in high school and enjoyed it. In college I took an EMT course and really enjoyed that and made a lot of great friends. Then I joined the Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps (BEMCo), a student-run organization that provides services to the Brandeis campus, then became director of operations and clinical supervisor by senior year. Through experiences with BEMCo, I realized that I really enjoyed treating people. I also became a teaching assistant for the Human Physiology course at Brandeis in my senior year, which confirmed my interest in medicine.
What’s your current role, and how has your job changed during COVID-19?
I’m starting as a third-year resident. I’m responsible for seeing patients, evaluating them, taking their history, ordering lab tests, imaging, and whatever treatments I think they need. I discuss the case with the attending physician and we come up with a plan, and then it’s about following up. Now with the onset of COVID-19, I guess my role hasn’t really changed that much. We still see and treat anyone who comes to the emergency department for help. I think Baystate [Health] tries to protect us in the sense that before COVID, multiple doctors and clinical staff would often enter a room if a patient were very sick. Since COVID that’s been a lot riskier – just being in a room is riskier, so we’ve sort of adjusted the protocols to prevent unnecessary staff from being in rooms, using extra PPE, and potentially getting exposed.
What’s it like to treat COVID patients?
When COVID-19 cases were first starting to ramp up in Massachusetts, I was not in the emergency room. I was off service in the surgical ICU, a little more removed from the front lines of the Emergency Department. By the time they came to us, they had already been evaluated and most patients sick with COVID-19 would go to the medical ICU instead. But the first patient of my first shift back in the Emergency Department ended up being a patient who had a fever and cough, and sure enough, they were COVID positive. I was sort of removed from this a little bit, but then I was right back on the frontlines with everyone else. I personally never really felt like I was in a high-risk group as a younger person with no comorbidities, but young healthcare workers have gotten very sick, and that sits around in the back of your head. I can’t speak for everyone, but I think a lot of us are more worried about getting their family and friends sick than they are about themselves. My co-residents and other colleagues who have children at home have told me that they come home from a long shift, and make sure they stop off in the garage to change and shower before they even greet their family, while some people have been sleeping in different beds. That’s been one of the areas of stress and fear – at least for me that’s been more of my concern: could I get somebody else sick? It’s pretty likely that I’ve been exposed, and considering that you have asymptomatic infections, it’s definitely a concern for a lot of us.